Arts & Events

Opera at the Hillside Club Tonight at 7, Sunday at 2

Friday January 11, 2019 - 02:42:00 PM

If you like to experience genuine opera up close and personal, the Berkeley Chamber Opera production of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, at Berkeley’s Hillside Club tonight, January 11 and Sunday, January 13 is your opportunity. If your only exposure to opera has been recordings, videos in movie theaters, or cavernous auditoriums like the San Francisco War Memorial Opera house, you’re in for a revelation.

The BCO, a non-profit, presents locally-sourced professional casts singing with a chamber orchestra in a human-scale venue evocative of the many intimate opera houses in Italy. This is their sixth fully costumed and staged production, the last five mounted at the historic wood-paneled club.

Conductor Jonathan Khuner is a veteran of many operas, including several for BCO. The title role will be sung by Bay Area soprano Eliza O’Malley, whose last BCO role was Joan of Arc in Verdi’s Giovanna D’Arco, which Khuner also conducted. The stage director is Lisa Houston. All three, as it happens, are Berkeley High School graduates who have gone on to regional, national and international careers. Many of the cast and chorus are also local residents. 

When Manon Lescaut opened in London, critic George Bernard Shaw wrote that “Puccini seems to me more like the heir of Verdi than any of his rivals.” Later commentators have opined that the opera, Puccini’s first big success, has Romantic underpinnings with Verismo tendencies and Wagnerian harmonic influences. Wherever it came from, the music is lush and the libretto gripping. 

The story comes from a wildly popular book by French novelist Antoine Prévost which was also the basis for Massenet’s Manon. The heroine is a kept woman who falls in love with a student—and it’s all downhill from there, in dramatic terms worthy of a telenovela, with sound track to match. You won't want to miss this one. 

For more information see: 


Manon Lescaut by Giacomo Puccini 

Friday January 11th, 7pm
Sunday January 13th, 2pm

Berkeley Hillside Club 2286 Cedar St. (at Arch) 

Brown Paper Tickets: (800) 838-3006,
General: $37 advance, $42 at the door
Students/Seniors: $25 in advance, $28 at the door
12 and under: free